Clustering of cases, health system capacity were factors why NCR remains under GCQ -- DOH

An official from the Department of Health (DOH) said the clustering of cases and health system capacity were among the factors why the National Capital Region had to remain under the general community quarantine (GCQ).

In this photo taken on September 8, 2020, passengers wearing face shields have their temperature taken before boarding a bus in Manila.

In an interview with ANC, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that while the trend of COVID-19 cases is generally decreasing in Metro Manila, there are still areas that are having a clustering of cases.

“If we reduce the number of this clustering of cases, and then if we can see that there is this decreasing trend of clustering in these specific areas, then we can say that maybe we can shift to MGCQ (modified general community quarantine),” Vergeire said.

Aside from decreasing the clustering of cases in several areas, Vergeire said the government is also targeting to manage the number of active cases in the country.

“That is what we are trying to study right now, to have that target of how many active cases we will have if we would want to shift to this lower level of community quarantine,” she said.

The DOH official also said there is still a need to further bring down the critical utilization in hospitals.

Currently, Vergeire said hospitals in Metro Manila have been decongested, with utilization down to 60 percent from the previous 81 percent.

Vergeire said the ideal utilization rate in hospitals is at 30 percent or less.

“We still need to further expand our capacity so that we will be ready when that time comes if ever and when there will be another increase in the number of cases,” she said.

The DOH official said the capacity of local government units is another factor to be looked at before shifting to a lower level of community quarantine.

“Can they appropriately do contact tracing? Can they do surveillance effectively and efficiently? Can they do the testing properly?” she asked.

“If they can do all of these integrated strategies, then we can say that we are ready, we are prepared to shift this community quarantine level,” she added.

Vergeire said the government and the public cannot be complacent despite the improvements in the COVID-19 numbers in the country.

“We still need to be very cautious. Kaya nga kami (that’s why), we have that cautious optimism. We still need to be vigilant,” she added.